Unreal Nature

March 31, 2014

But Not Before

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… A man of “ordinary constitution” … I have done everything to render my soul monstrous. Blind swimmer, I have made myself see. I have seen.

This is from ‘On Frottage,’ by Max Ernst (1936):

… Beginning with a memory of childhood … in the course of which a panel of false mahogany situated in front of my bed, had played the role of optical provocateur of a vision of half-sleep, and finding myself one rainy evening in a seaside inn, I was struck by the obsession that showed to my excited gaze the floor-boards upon which a thousand scrubbings had deepened the grooves. I decided then to investigate the symbolism of this obsession and, in order to aid my meditative and hallucinatory faculties, I made from the boards a series of drawings by placing on them, at random, sheets of paper which I undertook to rub with black lead. In gazing attentively at the drawings thus obtained, “the dark passages and those of a gently lighted penumbra,” I was surprised by the sudden intensification of my visionary capacities and by the hallucinatory succession of contradictory images superimposed, one upon the other, with the persistence and rapidity characteristic of amorous memories.

Max Ernst, Forest and Sun

My curiosity awakened and astonished, I began to experiment indifferently and to question, utilizing the same means, all sorts of materials to be found in my visual field: leaves and their veins, the ragged edges of a bit of linen, the brushstrokes of a “modern” painting, the unwound thread from a spool, etc.

… A man of “ordinary constitution” (I employ here the words of Rimbaud), I have done everything to render my soul monstrous. Blind swimmer, I have made myself see. I have seen. And I was surprised and enamoured of what I saw, wishing to identify myself with it …

Max Ernst, The Angel of Hearth and Home, 1937 [image from WikiPaintings]

The following is from Surrealism and Painting’ by André Breton (1928):

… What does it matter to me whether trees are green, whether a piano is at this moment “nearer” to me than a state-coach, whether a ball is cylindrical or round? … If at this moment I turn to some illustration or other in a book, there is nothing to prevent the world around me from ceasing to exist. In place of what was surrounding me there is now something else …

… When I know how the grim struggle between the actual and the possible will end, when I have lost all hope of enlarging the field of the real, until now strictly limited, to truly stupefying proportions, when my imagination, recoiling upon itself, can no longer do more than coincide with my memory, I will willingly accord myself, like the others, a few relative satisfactions. I shall then number myself among the “embroiderers,” whom I shall have had to forgive. But not before.




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